What is the Greatest Investment in History? #361 Why Did Judas Betray Jesus?
Hello friends and happy Tuesday to you. We live in a land and a world of frayed nerves, fear, arguments born of impatience and anxiety about the future right now. Today, in the midst of every storm that is blowing around you, and in you, and through your family and friends, remember that the angel of the Lord said that great peace would come through the birth of Jesus to those who are favored by the Father. If you are a follower of Jesus by faith, then you are in the number of the favored, so take joy and comfort in that.
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Today we are back to discussing one of my favorite people in the Bible: Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha, brother of Lazarus, and friend of Jesus. I believe it is very significant that, a few short days before His crucifixion, Jesus came to see His friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Most of us, when faced with the end of our time on the earth, would want to see the people who were most special to us. That group for Jesus apparently includes His disciples and Mary, Martha and Lazarus…and maybe not many people beyond that, though we could quite possibly include His immediate family in that number because His mother Mary was at His crucifixion (though His brothers are not mentioned as being there, nor His father, probably because he was already dead…though we don’t know for sure, of course.)
So, Jesus goes to a dinner at His friends house. Martha is serving Him, which is extremely important…but Mary goes beyond that – expressing her extravagant devotion in a physical, affectionate and extremely costly way. This display of affection and love is flabbergasting to the people in attendance, and shocks some of them. Let’s read the passage, and then discuss it.
Interestingly, even though Mark is a shorter book than John, Mark gives us a good bit more detail on this episode than John, except that he leaved Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ name out of the narrative. However, we do learn this:
6 Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thing for me.7 You always have the poor with you, and you can do what is good for them whenever you want, but you do not always have me.8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body in advance for burial.9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
So Judas Iscariot and other people grumble about this situation – it offends them. For Judas, it went beyond offense, according to Mark. We read this:
10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11 And when they heard this, they were glad and promised to give him money. So he started looking for a good opportunity to betray him.
Let that sink in for a moment. The straw that broke the camel’s back for Judas – the thing that convinced him to take action and betray the King of Kings…was this incident, and Jesus’ response to it. Yes, I know that Judas was already a thief at this point…but he wasn’t yet a betrayer, until this. Why? Why did this action, and Jesus’ response to it lead to the worst act of betrayal in all of history? Well…we can only speculate, can’t we? Was the motive money? Possibly, but recall that Judas tossed that silver back after the death of Jesus. Sure, that could be regret, of course, but it seems an odd thing to do for somebody THAT possessed by money. In this particular incident – I think the thing that got to Judas was something along the lines of jealousy. Maybe it offended him, and revealed his heart, that Mary of Bethany was so lovingly devoted to Jesus, and Judas knew that he wasn’t. Maybe it was something like jealousy that drove Judas, in part, to his despicable act. And then again, maybe it was something even more simple – maybe it just made him mad that he got in trouble, so to speak, for speaking out against Mary, and Mary was praised greatly. Because remember what Jesus said at the end of this incident: that Mary’s act would be proclaimed all over the world, just like the gospel.
300 denarii, the cost of this extravagant act of Mary, was the equivalent of about one year’s wages in the first century – 50 weeks of working 6 days a week, and resting on a Sunday. This is an astounding amount of money – the equivalent of an average yearly salary wherever you are – and she poured it out in a matter of minutes. “Why this waste?” grumbled some…and Jesus says that what she did was the very opposite of waste. I see it, as mentioned before, as an investment…perhaps the best investment in history, seeing as how we are still, today – almost 2000 years after this investment, talking about the wonderful thing that was done by Mary of Bethany.
Let’s close with Spurgeon’s words on this beautiful act:
When the disciples saw it, they were indignant. ‘Why this waste?’ they asked. ‘This might have been sold for a great deal and given to the poor.’ ” When you do the best you can from the purest motives and your Lord accepts your service, do not expect that others will approve all your actions. There was never a more beautiful proof of love to Christ than this anointing at Bethany, yet the disciples found fault with it. As they could not object to the action itself, they objected another thing would have been better. There is a great deal of that kind of wisdom in the world. But if we wait until we learn that wisdom, we will never do anything for our Lord. If this devoted and enthusiastic woman had waited for the advice of these prudent people, she would neither have sold the ointment nor poured it out. She did well to take council with her own loving heart and then to pour the precious oil on that dear head that was so soon to be crowned with thorns. She thus showed that at least one heart in the world thought nothing was too good for her Lord, and the best of the best ought to be given to Him. May she have many imitators in every age until Jesus comes again!
Spurgeon, The Spurgeon Study Bible: Notes (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1324–1325.